The Demand for Out-of-Print Works and Their (Un)Availability in Alternative Markets

25 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2014 Last revised: 12 Mar 2015

See all articles by Paul J. Heald

Paul J. Heald

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: March 14, 2014


Prior studies demonstrate the shocking unavailability of most books published in the 20th Century, prompting The Atlantic Monthly headline: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish. The unavailability of new editions of older works would be less problematic, however, if little consumer demand existed for those works. In addition, the lack of new editions would be much less troubling if the works were easily available in alternative forms or markets. Newly collected data provides evidence of the demand for out-of-print books and then charts the availability of out-of-print works in digital form (eBooks and .mp3), in used book stores, and in public libraries. The situation with books remains dismal, although music publishers on iTunes seem to be doing a much better job of digitizing older works and making them available than do book publishers. Some theories for this discrepancy are offered.

Keywords: copyright, eBooks, iTunes, term extension, public domain, mp3, libraries, Amazon, Abebooks, data, empirical, books, music, songs, out-of-print

JEL Classification: K00, K11, K19, O31, O34

Suggested Citation

Heald, Paul J., The Demand for Out-of-Print Works and Their (Un)Availability in Alternative Markets (March 14, 2014). Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 14-31, Available at SSRN: or

Paul J. Heald (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
706-372-2567 (Phone)


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